Today a story which falls under Bets You Would Have Lost. Angry atheist (sounds like a board game) Richard Dawkins said he would have “contributed financially to the scheme” of passing out free King James bibles to U.K. students had somebody contacted him about it. Not only that, but he said he was “a little shocked” that the tots did not already have the bibles.
And not only that, but he, in a rare non-sarcastic voice, hopes that the kiddies actually read the bibles!
All this from a man who likened religion to child abuse. But don’t fret about that judgment or worry about hypocrisy because Dawkins conjoins his religion-equals-child-abuse meme with the belief that rape, child abuse, and other sins against the body are morally “arbitrary.”
By which he means that the raw emotions which tell us these acts are “wrong” were placed in our brains by selfish genes operating under the pressures of evolution, and as such these emotions are able to be suppressed (as he would have religious impulses suppressed) with the application of Reason. Women—let her that readeth understand—should not ride in elevators with Dawkins in case he forgets to switch on his Reason Center.
His stance does make it sound odd that he would have England’s children read the bible to learn about morality, however. He said he would have the bible read because the bible “is not a moral book and young people need to learn that important fact because they are frequently told the opposite.”
According to the Guardian, Dawkins says, “I have heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that without the Bible as a moral compass people would show no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.”
Two things may be gleaned. The first, that Dawkins believes the bible is filled with advice on how to murder, steal, and run amok, or that, while it contains stories on these matters, it does not condemn them. The second is that these actions are all, to him, morally arbitrary anyway, belonging to a non-Enlightened, and possible earlier evolutionary, past.
But never mind! As it is he supports fully the plan created by Education Secretary Michael Gove to distribute the books and to have the children learn from them. Not all his co-anti-religionists agree with Dawkins. The National Secular Society is—are you ready?—outraged (isn’t everybody?) and says the plan favors Christianity. They have (selectively? purposely? in pure ignorance?) forgotten their culture also historically favored that religion.
An old story has a lady saying to a prominent philosopher that she did not see why anybody should read the bible or Shakespeare since they were both filled with cliches. Like this lady, Dawkins is aware that much of our language was shaped by King James’s effort, just as he knows how important that translation is to Western history. He would have the bible read for these reasons.
Dawkins was spot on when he said, “Ecclesiastes…is one of the glories of English literature,” though the New Testament is (mostly) a closed book for him. It’s selective (snarky) quotations from the Old Testament all the way. He even managed yesterday to work in an allusion that ancient Jews were Nazis. Don’t believe this? He said, “It was perfectly fine — indeed strongly encouraged throughout the Pentateuch — to kill Canaanites, Midianites, Jebusites, Hivites etc, especially if they had the misfortune to live in the Promised Lebensraum.”
Ah, Richard. Your selfish memes have taken over what you falsely believed to be your consciousness. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. There’s no “you” there to carry fault anyway. “You” are just a mass of unthinking proteins, blood, and no guts (Dawkins still hides from a man called William Lane Craig). Besides, given the state of our world, nobody will notice “your” faux pas.
But never mind! We should celebrate that an enemy to religion like Dawkins is now friendly to the idea of kids reading the bible. Some of these kiddies may adopt Dawkins’s imaginatively lurid theology, it’s true, but more (I predict) will take away something better. Some will even come across this verse, which has eluded Dawkins’s glance: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
Update For Briggs. Remember we are all ladies and gentlemen in the comments. No name calling is allowed.